I've mentioned it a few times before, but I have a bit of a book problem. Simply walking past a used bookstore is hard for me because I just know if I pop in for a few minutes (or an hour), I'll find my next favourite novel in some magic turn of fate.
Well, it's through this line of thinking that I have accumulated a veritable boatload of books. And the thing with owning a lot of books is that it can be kind of hard to actually finish one, particularly when you're someone like me who is: a) a multitasker and b) the owner of a very short attention span. I have a habit of having multiple books "on-the-go" at any given time, sometimes taking months and months to finish any of them.
I do have that occasional joyous moment though, where I pick up a book and suddenly, three hours have passed. The first line, the first page, the first chapter suck me in like a vortex and then I glance out the window and hey, is that the sun coming up?
The most recent book to give me such an experience, picked up secondhand at a used bookstore near my house, was Judith Rossner's "Looking For Mr. Goodbar." In the past, I'd heard of the Diane Keaton-starring movie that was based on the novel, and had looked it up on Wikipedia to discover it was based on a true crime, the brutal assault and murder of schoolteacher Roseann Quinn. Rossner had initially been covering the case for Esquire when they dropped the story over fears that the coverage could have an impact on the trial. Instead, Rossner chose to fictionalize what she had been researching and thus, the story of Theresa "Terry" Dunn was created.
Not much was changed in terms of what happened in reality. The book begins with -- not really a spoiler -- Theresa's murder, and then jumps back in time to her childhood, which was spent in and out of hospitals after being ill with polio. We then follow her through the years, through her high school and college experiences and eventually her career as a young elementary school teacher in New York City in the late ’60s.
Throughout all of this, Theresa begins a pattern of picking up men at bars and having casual one-night stands with them, a pastime that eventually leads to her murder. At first glance, one could say the book is trying to tell us that Theresa's promiscuity was her downfall, but in actuality it never comes off as preachy or judgmental. It merely tells the story, with a matter-of-fact honesty. Even when Theresa is at her lowest points, you feel for her, and the worst part is that you know this woman is not going to get a happy ending.
As I got closer and closer to the final pages, I was dreading what I knew was going to be the end for Theresa, and what in reality had been the horrific end for Roseann Quinn. The story of a young woman in a big city who is just trying to figure herself out and avoid the aches of her loneliness and scars, both physical and emotional, is relatable to pretty much anyone in their 20s, and to know that this soul didn't make it out is crushing.
When I finished the book, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. While "Looking For Mr. Goodbar" wasn't an easy read, it was captivating and heartbreaking, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to get lost in the details of a stranger's life.
I've finished the book though, and now I need to move on to another story. I want to hear from you guys about the last truly absorbing book you read. What book had you dog-earing the page only to say, "just one more" before turning to the next? I'm down to read pretty much anything as long as it's gripping and interesting. So do your part and convince me of what I need to read next, OK?